Shonese Holmes dropped out of high school because of a pile-up of outstanding unpaid waivers when she was in her senior year, just four credits away from graduating. “But I really wanted to go to school,” Shonese sighs. “I have always been in school, ever since ’94, when I dropped out. I’ve struggled a lot trying to get my GED. I took the test like four times. This was the main thing I was always wishing I could do – get my diploma.” Over the years, Shonese has moved from city to city, GED program to GED program. Nothing was working.
“In the GED programs, they were doing stuff like high school,” Shonese recalls. “Writing things on the board, sitting us at tables like at high school, doing homework like at high school – but the structure of high school was too hard for me, because of my learning situation. I need a sit-down instructor, and a slowed-down pace. I can’t go too fast. And I was at a 3rd grade reading level, too, so I’m like – I can’t get it! Going through grammar school, and high school, my father wasn’t able to read or write. My mom was sick. My sister was not going to sit next to me and help me. I had nobody to help. And I lost my hearing in 3rd grade, so I had to get an operation to get my hearing back.” Shonese is the single mother of four children, struggles with physical and learning disabilities, depression, and has endured multiple instances of family upheaval and bouts of homelessness. “Everyone don’t know what I gotta go through… you don’t know what’s going on. Just imagine, you never knew your mom. You knew your dad, but there wasn’t anyone there to instruct you. I loved him, and I broke real bad when he died in 2013, but I needed that extra motherly touch. And I never had that.”
Despite considerable obstacles in her life, and numerous failed attempts, Shonese has finally found a program that works at Gary Middle College. The unique, personalized structure of GMC’s teaching program has presented a way for Shonese to achieve her lifelong goal of earning a high school diploma. “I kept trying and trying to get my GED, but I just didn’t understand it. Here, it’s at your own pace. I can take notes on Odyssey lessons, and break it down. I can come back; I can remember.”
GMC has empowered Shonese to steadily and successfully work toward graduating from high school. Her hard work has paid off – Shonese is only two credits away from graduating, and dreams of the day when she will have her diploma. “It’s exciting! I feel like I’m this close… I’m going to be like a big old kid in my house!” At this thought, Shonese’s open face blossoms into a full-fledged grin, releasing a joyful “eeee!” followed by a peel of laughter. “I’m going to frame that diploma, and put it on my wall. It’s going to be ridiculous!”
Shonese is putting the final touches on an essay to submit to the Urban League of Northwest Indiana, which will put her in the running for a scholarship to attend college after she earns her high school diploma. After college, Shonese dreams of building a community center and nursery school in Gary. “No one in my family has a high school diploma. But I really wanted to go to high school. I wanted to show my kids that, you know, this is worth work full time.” So when her number was selected in the GMC lottery, earning her a coveted spot at the school, Shonese made a decision. “I’m not going to move until I have a diploma, until I have my kids settled. I want to stay here as long as I can, buy a house, be able to get a job.”
“I have had so much in and out. And now I have kids, and I’m trying to encourage my kids, and keep myself encouraged. So, if I’m here and I got something going on at home, well, it’s ok, because I’m trying my best here, I’m trying my hardest. I have a lot of stuff that will keep me focused. Here I am. Now I’m trying to just focus on school and see what it can help me with. Just thinking of one thing, get my diploma and then – take over the world!”